If you notice your little one looking flushed, maybe with sore looking gums and extra dribbling, don’t fret – they’re probably just teething. Some babies actually go through this without experiencing any teething pain, but others will feel a dull pain for a few days before the tooth appears. Although it can be difficult to watch them worry and feel uncomfortable, it’s all totally natural and, luckily, there are some things that can help relieve it.
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What is teething?
Basically, it’s baby’s milk teeth coming through. They push through the gums, typically in pairs, over a period of around two years. This doesn’t mean two years of discomfort – each tooth will only cause a bit of pain for about a week, and then they’re free until the next little baby tooth decides to pop out.
It can be a bit painful because the teeth are actually coming through the gum, so there can be swelling and you may notice that the gums look like they’re splitting slightly. This is normal, just the cells in the gum dying off, preparing for the little tooth to come through.
When does it happen?
Their teeth actually form in the womb! And in rare cases, some babies are even born with a tooth or two (around one in every 2,000 births). But generally, their first teeth will make their debut at around six months (although it can be as early as two months, and as late as 12).
It normally starts with the first incisor (the two bottom teeth at the front) and then the rest come in up to the age of around 33 months. Remember, this is just a rough guide – every baby is unique and as long as you notice no issues beyond them being cranky, their teeth will start coming in as and when they please in the first 18 months. If they reach 18 months and there are no pearly whites in sight (delayed tooth eruption), you may need to take them to see a dentist.
How do I know if they’re teething?
They may be too young to tell you, so there are some signs you can look out for:
- It might seem like they want to gnaw on basically everything. (This works as pain relief for them).
- An epic amount of dribble (even more than usual).
- You may be able to physically see that their gums look red, swollen and sore.
- They might be irritable or even distressed, and may lose their appetite.
- You may notice they’re having problems sleeping (beyond the norm).
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Tips to soothe teething pain
You are their world, and if they’re experiencing teething pain, they’re going to be looking at you to help them. It can be heart-breaking when there’s nothing you can do, and you can’t let them know that it’s normal and will be over soon. Luckily, there are a few little tricks that can help ease the pain while they go through this part of growing up.
An oldie but a goldie, teething rings are generally the go-to for teething pain. There’s a whole bunch of cute and helpful ones to choose from, but there are some things you’ll need to be careful with:
- Avoid teething necklaces or anything that goes around their neck (could be a choking hazard)
- Don’t put the rings in the freezer, only the fridge. Freezing can make them too hard and might bruise their little gums
- Avoid liquid filled teething rings. It might be hard to believe but babies are actually strong enough to chew through these, and you don’t want them drinking that liquid.
- You might want to check that the material they’re made from doesn’t contain phthalates.
Keep it cool
As we’ve said, teething rings can be kept cool in the fridge, but shouldn’t be put in the freezer. Depending on whether baby's started weaning and what foods they like, you can also try giving them chilled foods, e.g. mash up some banana, stick it in the fridge and then feed it to them to soothe sore gums. Lumps of things like of apple or carrot will do if they’re a bit older.
One mum discovered a great hack for this: take a baby food pouch, squeeze it out into different shapes on a baking tray (use greaseproof paper) and stick it in the freezer. Let them warm up a little before giving them to baby to suck on. And always make sure to watch your baby when using food for this!
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Use a washcloth
Another cool alternative could be putting a clean, wet washcloth in the fridge and then letting them chew on it. Again, don’t freeze it – just pop it in the fridge for an easy remedy for when they’re all hot and bothered (just make sure to watch them with it as it can be a choking hazard).
Massage baby’s gums
Super simple yet effective, all you need is a clean finger! You can help ease their pain by gently rubbing their gums in circular motions. This can be done both inside and outside their mouth.
Keep them clean and dry
There will be lots of dribbling while baby’s teething. Too much moisture can irritate the skin and maybe even give them a rash, so make sure to wipe drool away with a clean cloth (be gentle though, as the wiping can cause irritation). You can also try protecting their clothes with a cute bib.
Talk to your doctor about medication
If needed, you may be able to give baby some medicine to help with their teething pain. From three months, they can have paracetamol or ibuprofen. Make sure these are sugar free, always follow the instructions and, if in doubt, talk to your doctor about it.
Give them a hug
Sometimes there just isn’t much you can do but be there for them. Make sure you give them lots of cuddles, play with them and just generally try to distract them from the pain.
Care for their teeth
Once they start coming through, register baby with a dentist and start brushing their teeth. Check out this NHS guide on looking after their teeth as part of their daily routine.
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It can be a bit of a struggle at times, but it’s something every parents must go through with their little one. If your baby’s experiencing some teething pain, we hope these tips help, and we’d love to hear if you’ve got any more – let us know!